Still Time to Cram
Trigger warning: Discussion of holiday parties with relatives who want you to not be so fat.
There is still time to cram for the upcoming exam! What, you are not in school you say? You gave up cramming for tests back in high school?
I am talking about the annual pop quiz that may be in store for many of us as we enter the holiday season, an approximately month-long stretch that is ripe with FFFFamily occasions. Not Fierce Freethinking Fatties Family (although all of us here at FFF invite all of you in our FFF community to join us every day by reading and commenting on our blog posts). I am referring to the Family, Food, and Fatphobic time of the year. Next to summer, the winter holiday season is The Most Fatphobic Time of the Year!
As Americans, and people in countries around the world that have adopted the thin ideal, gather together for holiday celebrations with all of the trimmings, inevitably the topic of fat will bubble up and emotions will boil over. Other than Santa Claus (who seems to have gotten a lifetime permission slip to be fat and jolly), the rest of us fat folk at some point will have to hear more than our fair share of fat-related comments, laments, and after dinner-ments that all have the underlying message that fat is bad. Here are some examples of common implements of destruction:
- The Stealthy Fatphobic Tactic — These remarks may be camouflaged in compliments about the food itself, but are accompanied with a side order of how disgusting they feel about how much they ate, how their clothing feels after the food is eaten, and vows to never eat again.
- Surface Combat — These are the comments about people’s appearances. This recipe usually includes comparisons of body size, hisses of jealousy, moans of longing, and proud posturing of someone who may be thinner than they were the last time the group was together.
- Silent But Deadly — These are the ice cold stares or eye rolls as someone watches you take a second helping of yams and marshmallow topping…Talk about harshing my mellow… dang!
Fortunately, we have a large selection of weapons in our own arsenal that we can use to emerge unscathed or less harmed by the weapons of fat-mass destruction, aimed at anyone who is not complying with their standards of acceptable body size. Whether or not we are intentionally or unintentionally fat, whether or not we have decided to live happily and without apologizing for our bodies or we still struggle with our own internal self-hatred and issues with food and feelings, one thing is true for all of us:
NO ONE DESERVES TO BE SHAMED OR FAT-@TACKED. NO-ONE!
We can deploy any one of the following:
- Nancy Reagan Nuke Attack — “Just say no.” Decline invitations to situations where we know we will be abused or have to witness people abusing themselves and others via negative body talk. This is sometimes the most difficult strategy because saying no to seeing family is complicated, especially when we may be scattered across the country and in-person visits are rare.
- Technology can be your friend! Skype and Facetime may be good compromises.
- “But isn’t this just avoiding? How can this help me become a more self-accepting person?” That is your inner judge talking. It takes a great deal of strength to say “no” to an invitation where people are expecting you to say “yes,” and then join in with the same old “BMW” (bitch moan whine) body hate script year after year. Everyone is different and body acceptance is a process. I am simply offering choices that some people may want to try some of the time, never, or always. Try to tell your inner critic to butt out (or is it bud out?) and let YOU decide what is best for YOU.
- Fake Short Attention Span Attack — Just change the subject. Some of you may be familiar with my “Did you Hear the Beatles Broke Up?” strategy to fight family f@ attacks. In short, it is a way to teach people in your life that certain subjects are just off limits and that you won’t engage in negative body talk about yourself or collude in other people’s fat hate via gossip.
- If this feels too impolite or you are dealing with people who don’t have a good sense of humor or are unable to see what you are doing, then you can always physically excuse yourself and leave the conversation.
- But isn’t this just avoiding? How can this help me become a more self-accepting person? That is your inner judge talking AND some people may interpret your changing the subject, walking away, or being silent as an admission of defeat, defensiveness, or too weak to handle the truth. In reality, it is a sign of strength and taking control of the situation by finding a healthier, less self-destructive place to be. It is part of internalizing and communicating the message that “MY ONLY WEIGHT PROBLEM IS YOUR PROBLEM WITH MY WEIGHT! Try to tell your inner critic to bud out (or is it butt out?) and remember this is supposed to be a party! I hate to be judgmental or anything, but parties are supposed to be fun!
- Jean-Luc Picard Attack — Just engage! If you have the desire and are motivated to, do a bit of activism to fight the f@phobics who want you to cling on to outdated paradigm beliefs about fat, you can go in full throttle. But you have to be armed with the facts because the Cling-ons are a formidable foe and will relentlessly quiz you about proving your point of view.
- You could always employ the counter-attack and keep asking them where they get their information and proof that fat causes diabetes, hypertension, death, and the destruction of the planet as we know it, but they will most likely say you are in denial and that EVERYONE KNOWS that you have to lose weight to be healthy.
- “But I don’t know all of the facts and information to prove that Health at Every Size® (HAES) is a good idea and what if it isn’t and I am just…” Stop!!! Please!!! That is your inner judge talking and you can tell it to STEP DOWN! You are a bright, inquisitive person or you wouldn’t have found this article. Besides, there is a new book edited by Ellen Glovsky that can be your study guide for learning the facts about fat, health, food, and feelings.
Wellness, not Weight: Health at Every Size and Motivational Interviewing is a 21 chapter book with contributions from some of the most prominent authors and clinicians in the areas of HAES, giving up dieting, and choosing Size Acceptance over self-hate. Beginning with a piece by Marsha Hudnall, RD, on the importance of a non-diet approach to eating and a body positive approach to self-care and wrapping up with Dr. Jon Robison’s list of 10 tangible things you can do right now to improve your well-being and any concerns you may have about health as it relates to weight, this book effectively explains the science, facts, and history of HAES. The book also brings the reader into the politics of when and why the demands for women to be thinner came about. You’ll also find chapters from Paul Ernsberger, Lucy Aphramor, Linda Bacon, Dharini Bhammar and Glenn Gaesser concisely challenging the assumptions that are too frequently made about the causal relationship between weight, disease, and weight cycling.
Relating the information on 21 chapters and their respective authors would be too time consuming for this article, but some include: teaching HAES to students and healthcare professionals; spirituality; why athletes should not diet; children and health; motivational interviewing techniques; the differences between intuitive, attuned, conscious, mindful and structured eating; and social justice. The book provides descriptive case studies about how people have been able to change their body hate into body acceptance and heal a fractured relationship with food. The topics are thoughtfully discussed and explained to the reader in a way that not only informs but empowers him/her to understand the material and “pay it forward” by spreading the information to others.
I do feel the need to be clear here, Wellness, not Weight is not without its own biases — that is obvious the minute you read the title. There is an emphasis on the importance of health that some readers may find to be “healthist” and there’s a clear preference for motivational interviewing as a therapeutic modality for treating body image, eating disorders and just about any challenge that a client may be grappling with. Neither of those points of view, in my opinion, detracted from it being a well-crafted textbook for teaching current and future dietitians, nutritionists, clinicians, educators and healthcare workers the value of using a weight neutral approach in their practices and helping, as Dr. Glovsky says, “lay-people” to make strides in their personal journey towards self-acceptance and less disordered eating patterns.
It is not a book that most of us would sit down and read cover to cover in our leisure time… a chapter here a chapter there is easier to digest. Unless, of course, you are cramming for the upcoming holiday pop quiz, in which case I suggest you buy a copy, start reading and take notes! I am certain that you will find yourself “armed” with enough crammunition to make it through the holiday season. And try to remember, there is a fine line between teaching and preaching. If you want the Cling-ons to understand that fat is not an evil, deadly, blight, or perhaps convince them to join the movement, convey your message with kindness, respect, and back it up with facts!!!
Knowledge is power.
Til Next Time,